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Origin of La Malbaie

The name La Malbaie originates from Québec’s founder, Samuel de Champlain. In his travelogue, dated June 30th, 1608, he refers to "a small river that drains off the open sea (...) & we named it the river platte, or malle bayes". The toponym, referring to both the river and the bay, enters into use; the word "malle" here having the meaning of "bad". There is no mention of the stranding of his ship on this occasion in the writings of the time; the anecdote often told is purely legendary because his ship, the Don-de-Dieu, was left in June 1608 in Tadoussac, the navigator heading back to Québec by boat.

In 1653, the toponym La Malbaie is attached to a manor granted to Jean Bourdon whose territory extends from Cape-aux-Oies (Les Éboulements) to Rivière-Noire (Saint-Siméon). Returned to the Crown in 1667, the lordship was conceded again in 1672 under the same name. In 1724, the territory was reintegrated at the Domaine du Roi. The name La Malbaie is attached to one of the two farms in the area.

Following the Conquest, in 1762, the territory of the former lordship of La Malbaie was subdivided into two new fiefs called Murray Bay and Mount Murray. Murray's name pays tribute to James Murray, future governor of the colony who made the concession possible. Nairne obtains the seigneury of Murray Bay stretching from Cape-aux-Oies to the Malbaie River. Malcolm Fraser was granted the seigneury of Mount Murray, which extends from the Malbaie River to the Rivière-Noire. The names of La Malbaie and Murray Bay will be used for more than a century to designate the area.

In the second half of the 19th century, the term "Murray Bay" became the internationally recognized name for the locality among largely English-speaking tourists, who traveled mainly to the Pointe-au-Pic area. Institutionally, the name of Murray Bay is found in particular attached to the post office opened in 1832. Similarly, the municipality created in 1855 uses the term in its composite appointment of Saint-Etienne-de-Murray-Bay. However, the local population more commonly uses the name of La Malbaie to designate the locality. It is also under the name of Saint-Etienne-de-La-Malbaie that canonically erected in 1825 a religious parish. Over time, the expression Murray Bay disappears gradually. In 1957, the parish municipality is officially renamed Saint-Étienne-de-La-Malbaie.

Société d’histoire de Charlevoix